Cougs made Ducks respect 5 on every play

SPOKANE -- For WSU assistant coach Dennis Simmons, the most impressive effort Saturday night didn’t come inside a sold-out Martin Stadium. Considering Washington State’s dramatic 38-31 loss to No. 2 Oregon, it had to have been something pretty special.

“My son stayed up for the whole game,” he grinned. “The commercials and the cartoons and stuff like that, he’s into it.”

“How old is your son,” a Spokane Cougar Club member asked.

“He’s two months old,” the coach proclaimed.

New fatherhood aside, Dennis Simmons said he was pleased with the performance of his wide receivers and the overall team effort against the Ducks. Not satisfied, obviously. But pleased.

Simmons brought a sizeable package of highlights for Monday’s luncheon – starting with a number of positive plays by his outside receiving corps.

The game plan, he said, was to force the Ducks to respect five skill players on every play -- four receivers and a running back.

He started with the first of Dom Williams’ touchdown receptions in the first quarter.

“The safety set up in the middle of the field and left the corner one-on-one against Dom,” Simmons said. “We like that match-up and we’re going to take advantage of that every time. We want our guys to position themselves so that Connor (Halliday) has all the space from the bottom of the numbers (painted on the field) and the sideline, so there’s no way he can make a bad throw because we can adjust to it.”

The rest of his offensive highlights were a variation on that theme.

Rickey Galvin’s six-yard touchdown catch simply took advantage of space in front of the defensive back.

A wheel route for a long gain to River Cracraft took advantage of the Ducks’ defensive alignment that left open space on the outside.

The Cougar receivers are more adept at the style of play that both Simmons and head coach Mike Leach want near the sidelines.

“We want them to be aggressive, to be the first to get their hands on the defensive back,” he said. “We’re bigger and stronger and we have better size than we did when we got here.

“But more important than that, guys like Kristoff (Williams, 6-2, 210) when he gets back in there, Dom (Williams, 6-2, 190), Isiah Myers, (6-0, 189) and Vince (Mayle, 6-3, 219), they’ve all been in the system now for three seasons. That makes a difference.”

Simmons told the luncheon crowd that his receiver rotation is primarily designed to keep everyone fresh and ready to go at full speed.

“We have a couple plays that are matched to personnel,” he said. “A couple plays that are designed to go to a specific player.”

Simmons was asked about his mentor relationship with Cougars linebacker Jeremiah Allison.

Simmons was in Los Angeles on a recruiting trip on December 14, 2011, when Allison received word that his mother was motionless, not breathing and was being rushed by paramedics to a hospital where she was brought back to life.

Simmons, who had a similar experience with his own mother, took Allison under his wing. When Allison’s mother passed away at the end of fall camp and he returned home to the funeral, he arrived in Los Angeles to find Simmons and linebackers coach Paul Volero already there.

“Jerimiah (and I) had a conversation about a week and a half ago,” Simmons said. “He was frustrated. He thought he wasn’t getting in for as many plays as he thought he should. I told him not to count his reps, but to concentrate on making every rep he has count.”

Allison made the most of his playing time against the Ducks, making six solo tackles and collecting 10 total.

“After the game he came over and he just said, ‘Thanks,’” Simmons said.

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